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Archive for the ‘Feet in 2 Worlds’ Category

Federal Government Opens Citizenship Database to Florida Authorities, Making Immigrant Leaders Wary

The federal government has sent a letter to Florida governor Rick Scott allowing his state access to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database listing the names of resident noncitizens in the United States.

The government acted after a district court judge ruled in Scott’s favor on the issue.  Scott wants to use the database in his push to eliminate voter fraud and ensure that only people who are legally allowed to vote in the U.S. do so.

Response from immigrant leaders in Florida and New York was mixed.

Maria Rodriguez, the Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, was skeptical of Scott’s push.  Her organization is involved with a lawsuit against the state government for “violations of the Voting Rights Act.”

She told Fi2W that only a minuscule amount of actual voter fraud cases have been recorded in Florida, while the registration gap among Latino voters numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

According to Politifact, only 49 cases of voter fraud have been identified by the Florida Department of State since 2007.  According to the Associated Press, 86 people have been removed from the voter rolls in Florida for lacking eligibility since April 11.

Meanwhile, according to an estimate by Latino Decisions, a polling service, over 600,000 Latinos in Florida are eligible to vote but unregistered.

According to Rodriguez, this is the true problem, and it is one that Scott’s administration is refusing to address.

“Why focus on the minutiae of the voter fraud, which happened accidentally and inadvertently, instead of really trying to encourage democracy?” she told Fi2W.

For Rodriguez, the answer is simple.

“This is the latest example of [Scott] trying to activate his nativist base,” she said.  ”It’s a complete diversion from the real issues around keeping our democracy vibrant, and supporting inclusion.”

In New York, Valeria Treves of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) saw the sharing of citizenship databases by different levels of government as potentially intimidating to newer Americans.  Many immigrants who are not citizens send their children to school, pay taxes, and inform the police of potential criminal activities, she said, and the feeling that their information is being monitored by many different government agencies is intimidating.

“I think it erodes the trust between immigrants and different parts of the government,” she told Fi2W.  ”If they see all this info sharing between local and federal agencies, it’s going to dissuade immigrants from engaging in the actions that we all engage in.”

Treves said that her experience working with immigrants showed her that the vast majority of immigrants who register to vote without being citizens do so without realizing it, and attempting to present it otherwise is dishonest.

“I really feel like the rhetoric of immigrants doing this for malicious intent is overly political,” she said.  ”It’s not accurate.”

Alan Kaplan, the Civic Engagement Director for the New York Immigration Coalition, supported Florida’s right to check its voter rolls, but echoed Rodriguez and Treves’ misgivings on voter fraud’s legitimacy as a political issue, and saw it more as a tactic to discourage voting among certain populations.

“I think any time you confuse voters, especially new voters, you could be causing them to not go out and vote, and I feel like that’s part of the stategy of going after the voter rolls,” he said.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Photo courtesy of flickr

Justin Mitchell was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2002 with a degree in theater, and worked as an ESL teacher in the Czech Republic, Cambodia, and Korea. He is now a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a focus in international journalism. Follow him on Twitter @mittinjuschell.

If You Have the Opportunity and Means to Become a U.S. Citizen, Take It

On July 4, President Obama delivered remarks at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members, immigrants from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The President was right in saying that these ceremonies – held from Monticello in Virginia to the Seattle Center in Washington – are “a perfect way to celebrate America’s birthday.”

“With this ceremony today — and ceremonies like it across our country — we affirm another truth:  Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe,” Mr. Obama said. “We say it so often, we sometimes forget what it means — we are a nation of immigrants.  Unless you are one of the first Americans, a Native American, we are all descended from folks who came from someplace else — whether they arrived on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, whether they came through Ellis Island or crossed the Rio Grande.”

The Office of Immigration Statistics reports that last year 694,193 individuals became citizens. While that might seem like an impressive number, 8.1 million legal permanent residents were eligible to naturalize in 2010. Why didn’t more immigrants naturalize? Why do so many choose not to become U.S. citizens?

For one thing, the $680.00 total cost for fees is prohibitive and the entire process intimidating. Some experts also cite limited English skills, lower education levels and lower income levels as barriers to naturalization.

But there are others who face no such barriers and have opted not to naturalize, dodging any responsibilities to a country they are reaping from. I personally know of a few who simply could not be bothered. These are folks who have been here for many years, with no intent of returning to their homelands any time soon.

On the flip side of the coin, there are millions of immigrants who want nothing more than to become full-fledged members of our society, particularly the undocumented youth and other unauthorized immigrants who consider America their home but are not eligible thanks to our broken immigration system.

The act of naturalization not only confers the rights and benefits of citizenship, it is also a ceremony in which immigrants commit to the responsibilities that come with the privilege of being an American. Choosing to become a U.S. citizen brings obligations such as voting, paying taxes, and when necessary, fighting for our country. The President saluted the new Americans for being “willing to work hard, play by the rules, and meet their responsibilities,” just like generations of immigrants before them.

If you have the opportunity and means to become a U.S. citizen, take it. It’s your responsibility as an individual to join generations of other immigrants who have committed to their adopted homeland and made it great.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

Disaster Migrants & The BP Cleanup

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has drawn cleanup workers from near and far. Many of those workers are Latinos, so-called “disaster migrants” who go from catastrophe to catastrophe and aid in the repair efforts. Maybe it doesn’t seem like an ideal job to you, but these folks are happy just to have work.

The report on disaster migrants comes to us from Annie Correal of the Feet in Two Worlds project.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

Click the image to view an interactive map of the spill.

Can They Break Out of the Script?

Sometimes you get stuck: stuck in a way of thinking, stuck in a way of reacting to people around you, stuck in the place where you live. This week on Latino USA we meet two people in Arizona — Irene and Gerardo — who seem, well, stuck. They are each waiting for the tough new immigration law about to go into effect, and they see things from two very different perspectives.

Valeria Fernández from the Feet in Two Worlds project talks to them about life in Arizona in the days before SB 1070 becomes the law.


Then, keep listening as Maria discusses how their stories could hypothetically change and shift with satirist and artist Lalo Alcaraz.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

The Art of Lalo Alcaraz

La Cucaracha

Pocho Hour of Power (KPFK)

Cleaning Up the Gulf of Mexico

Even as BP engineers and federal emergency management teams fight this weekend to contain the leak from the ruined offshore rig Deepwater Horizon, containment and cleanup efforts are underway across the Gulf coast. The environmental damage from the leak is devastating: to marine and aquatic life, to marshlands and shoreline, and to the water-based economies of states still recovering from hurricane Katrina.

Annie Correal is a reporter on the oldest Spanish-language daily newspaper in America, New York City’s El Diario/La Prensa. She’s in Louisiana now, reporting on the containment efforts underway there. Maria talks with her about the Latinos working to clean up BP’s spill.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

Annie Correal’s reporting comes to Latino USA in cooperation with Feet in 2 Worlds. You can read more about the cleanup efforts and see more photos from the Hopedale Command Center on the Feet in 2 Worlds blog.

Identification in New Haven

Fr. James Winship. (Photo courtesy of New Haven Independent. Used with permission.)

New Haven, Connecticut is a sanctuary city. In 2007, the town voted to allow municipal IDs for all its residents regardless of immigration status. This caught the attention of anti-immigrant activists, who decried this de-facto legalization that allowed undocumented persons to open bank accounts and get access to city services. And yet not all is peaceful in New Haven.

For some time, the town’s Latino immigrants have claimed harassment by local police. And recently, a catholic priest was arrested and charged with interfering with an officer in the performance of his duties. And what was the priest doing? He was videotaping police officers as they hassled a Latino small business owner.

Aswini Anburajan, a reporter with the Feet in Two Worlds Project, has a profile of this activist priest: Fr. James Manship.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

See Aswini Anburajan’s reporters notebook on her profile of Fr. James Manship from the Feet in Two Worlds website.

Click HERE.

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